As Parkinson’s disease progresses, patients find that they have trouble walking. They are likely to fall easily due to lack of body balance, have episodic gait freezing moments, get their muscles freezing momentarily as well as lack stability.
According to Parkinsons.org, the disease affects the basal ganglia, the part that controls body balance. The brain compensates by assigning the frontal cortex for giving you balance. Unfortunately, this area is supposed to be used for thinking. As such, giving your body balance is not automatic.
How can you walk better with PD?
We are going to explore ways that Parkinson’s patients can walk better, improve their body balance as well as be more stable in their posture.
Lets get into it.
Use a walking stick or wheeled walker
Use a walker be it standard or wheeled. If the disease has not progressed so much, you are well off with a smart walking cane. There is a trick to getting the right walking stick. Make sure that it feels comfortable to walk with it and that your hands can dangle free even when using the aid.
For patients whose ambulation has been affected progressively, you will have to buy them some electric wheelchairs.
Use laser and beep cues
Walkers such as the ustep have laser attachments that you use to cue you as you walk. These laser light prompts you to make the next step and they have been proven to be effective in what they do. You could also have beep cues such as the one found in a metronome to prompt you to take the next step. With the rhythmic beats of a metronome, the patient is able to keep on progressing.
Exercises such as tai chi, dancing as well as riding on a theracycle have been shown to be great for people with Parkinson’s disease. The exercises help in getting the patient to have more balance and stable in their walk.
Levodopa helps to control freezing
Drugs such as levodopa (Sinemet) have been proven to help with controlling gait freezing in Parkinson’s patients. However, it also gets to a time when they become less effective as the disease progresses and their efficacy becomes less pronounced.
Walk without distractions
Walk with no distractions such as thoughts or talking. Science shows that walking while talking or thinking does slow us down. Maybe you could try it today and see. When you are alone, you will tend to walk faster than when you are with people talking. For people with Parkinson’s, they need to fully focus on their walk if they are going to do it nicely without any moments of freezing. At the same time, they want to have a uniform pattern with little or no distractions.
Just look at them walking on a floor with one tile pattern. When they come to a new tile pattern, they will momentarily freeze because they have been distracted by the newness of the pattern. Their minds had gotten accustomed to the old and it takes sometimes to adjust to the new pattern.
Try as much as possible not to think about how nasty your bradykinesia is. Also do not focus so much on how attentive people are towards the way you are walking. Well, there are people who will think you drunk because of your imbalance or gait freezing but do not give too much thought towards this since it could get you agitated.
If it helps, you could also wear tee-shirts that say you have Parkinson’s so that people know why you walk the way you do.
Stop if you feel compelled too
Do not be too hard on yourself while walking. If you feel like stopping and resting, do it.